Via Prometheus (who misrepresents it) I found Climate Science on Trial: How a single scientific graph became the focus of the debate over global warming. Its well worth reading. Towards the end we have this wonderful bit, demonstrating the sheer ignorance of many of the septics:

For some members of the House energy committee, the hockey stick has become something of a boogeyman, a dangerous figure they see lurking in all corners even when it isn’t present.

Representative Barton and others repeatedly claimed that Mr. Mann’s curve was in An Inconvenient Truth, the movie and book about Al Gore’s slide show on global warming. While there is a graph shaped like a hockey stick in the book and the movie, the data do not come from Mr. Mann but from a different study, of glaciers.

At another point in the hearings, Mr. Whitfield said the hockey-stick curve was so influential that it was a cornerstone of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to limit carbon emissions. “The Kyoto arguments were primarily based upon this new chart,” he said, before another committee member pointed out that the graph had been published after the protocol was adopted.

A point that comes up (and RP asserts) is that the IPCC “boiled down” the science too much for the SPM: Does it make sense to “boil down” science in a manner that inevitably leads to a mischaracterization of that science?. No it doesn’t. But who says who is doing this? You can read the SPM fig 1 caption. I don’t think its misrepresented. This is in danger of becoming an urban myth like the 1970’s ice age stuff. I don’t see any alternative to summarising things – just about everyone does: papers have abstracts that are effectively summaries.


  1. #1 Eli Rabett

    I am shocked, just shocked, that Roger Pielke Jr. would misrepresent something. I on the other hand am a 6 foot optimistic fuzzy Rabett. What’s your excuse?

  2. #2 Hank Roberts

    > is in danger of becoming an urban myth….

    Perhaps “is being spun into an urban myth” would be a more precise description of how the disinformation is being managed here?

    The stocky hicks are on the march.

  3. #3 Carl Christensen

    spinning myth as facts is what the right-wing apologists do best — they spin that (US-based, Murdoch owned) Fox News is “fair and balanced”, that Al Gore “invented the Internet”, most recently they are spinning (on the 5th anniversary of 9/11) that Clinton had Bin Laden in his sights to abduct/kill and didn’t do it.

  4. #4 Roger Pielke Jr.


    Read my post again. I’ve misrepresented absolutely nothing.

    You ask, who says the IPCC boiled down the science?

    Why Richard Monastersky in the article that you are describing. Here is what he writes in the article,

    “Mr. Mann and other authors who wrote the section on temperature changes described the millennial reconstructions and the uncertainties inherent in them. But those caveats faded from view when leaders of the IPCC boiled down the 994-page scientific report into a 20-page synopsis. . . ”

    You may disagree with what Monastersky wrote, but this is quite different than falsely accusing someone of misrepresentation. Ironic, really.

    [Hi Roger. Well, you weren’t supposed to like it. But you’ve missed the point. The misrepresentation is in your first para: “A colossal mistake” is how Jerry Mahlman describes in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education the IPCC’s decision to feature the so-called “hockey stick” in its Summary for Policy Makers. Mahlman doesn’t say this -W]

  5. #5 Roger Pielke, Jr.

    William- Please visit our blog for a discussion of the meaning of the word “feature”. It does not mean “include” as you suggest it does. When you are done parsing words and leveling allegations, you might also consider the more substantive points about science and assessments. Oh, and maybe pick up a thesaurus;-) Thanks.

    [Hi Roger. I think Mr Peelke is maybe getting a bit sloppy and should perhaps slow down and check his spelling if he is going to cast allegations of sloppyness around :-) If your post is full of far more important things, I suggest that next time you re-think your titling strategy. If you title your post on a certain subject, people may well think thats the most important bit.

    And since I addressed your substantive point about “boiling”, I really don’t see what you’re complaining about. You are spending too long dancing on pinheads with the angels -W]

  6. #6 hank

    Or visit the OED:
    ” 5. intr. To be a feature (in); to participate or play an (important) part in.”

    But I’d rather hear opinions about people who print graphics without error bars and explanations of the uncertainty — do honest people do that, when acting as advocates, or is that out of bounds?

    I realize there’s a difference even among practicing Christians as to whether “lying by omission” is a sin (a “sin of omission”) or merely clever lawyering — but I had to get beyond Parochial schooling to learn that distinction.

  7. #7 Dano

    Far more interesting (well, maybe only to me) is the way astroturf and FUD becomes conventional wisdom and even decisionmakers use it (e.g. ‘HS part of Kyoto P.’).

    Nonetheless, buried in the dudgeoning on about how bad scientists acted (without providing what is an appropriate action), there is a good implict point in RP Jrs post: we don’t have a good way to deliver information to policymakers. Is the SPM really what they need? Or do they not know what they need? IMHO this is not explicit and thus allows for quibbling and bad acting.



  8. #8 Jeff Harvey

    On an even more ridiculous note, Stephen McIntyre has been ‘invited’ to present a lengthy seminar here in Holland next week apparently jointly organized by the Free University (Amsterdam) and the science magazine Natuur Wetenschap & Techniek. Of course, its almost inevitable that McIntyre is going to talk first about the hockey stick, then will move on to the hockey stick, and will wrap up his seminar by discussing – erm – the hockey stick. Yup, that will be it. I can understand why the state-corporate media apparatus courts controversy, but when academia starts doing the same thing it belittles science. I wrote to a guy in the magazine asking explicitly why the scientific community should pay attention to someone with nothing new to offer (and whose talk is bound to ignore reams and reams of other important empirical evidence for AGW) but of course I don’t expect a reply.

    As Dano and others have said here countless times, the shills know fully well they aren’t ever going to win the scientific debate, but that isn’t their aim. They just want to play a convenient role in muddying the water enough to ensure that the public thins the debate is evenly split between two opposing sides and that policies remain unchanged. The ‘hockey stick’ is their holy grail. They are going to cling to the damed thing as long as doing so ensures that the debate remains paralyzed.

  9. #9 Hans Erren

    Hey Jeff will you come to Amsterdam?

    Note that McIntyre will venturing into the lion’s den by visiting the Dutch Royal Met Office KNMI in the morning, to discuss:

    the Hockeystick

  10. #10 Eli Rabett

    The Figure Caption in the Summary For Policy Makers that William points us to is very important and shows that the ENTIRE nonsense stirred up about this is a piece of dodah. Moreover a successful piece of that stuff as shown by Mahlmans comment:

    “Nevertheless the rate and duration of warming of the 20th century has been much greater than in any of the previous nine centuries. Similarly, it is likely7 that the 1990s have been the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year of the millennium.”

    So the strong claim is that the RATE AND DURATION of the 20th century warming has been without precident in a millenium.

    The much weaker one (notice how then footnoted the word likely pointing back to the report definition of the term) was that 1998 was the warmest year in a 1000.

    I don’t think we’ve heard very much comment on the first sentence. We have books on the last.

  11. #11 Jeff Harvey


    I would normally grit my teeth and attend but thankfully I am attending a conference on glucosinolates and Brassica plants in Germany next week, so I will miss it.

    As for the ‘seminar’, its just ging to be the same thing, repeated ad nauseum. McIntyre will hammer away at the ‘hockey stick graph’, claim that its crap, then the audience will be expected to believe from his musings that AGW itself must be a load of hot air. This is the tried and trusted strategy of the septic crowd. Find one glitch in one miniscule area of empirical research, then latch onto it like leeches depserate for a blood meal, and don’t let go. Ensure the debate is paralyzed around a single and small, albeit controversial, topic. Bingo. Nothing changes – all efforts at mitigation are rendered mute.

    As said a million times before, AGW was being seriously examined years before the Mann et al. paper was published. By the early 1990’s, there was pretty much of a strong scientific consensus around it. I have a book published in 1992, in which researchers discuss the possible consequences of AGW on ecosystems and biodiversity. Yet another boring old fart (McIntyre) with no pedigree whatsoever in climate science is coming over here to blow his shallow horn. I am glad I will be at a real scientific conference, instead of the farcical venues where the contras generally spew forth their distortions.

  12. #12 Hans Erren


    asterix in belgium, page 29

  13. #13 Jeff Harvey


    I prefer Continental Conservation, page 129. Besides, I am sure that you and the rest of the contrarian crowd are well versed with fantasy stories. I prefer factual tracts.

  14. #14 Adam

    Taking that article as the reference, it’s ambiguous as to whether Mahlman was referring to the graph being “highlighted” in the summary, or being used as a back-drop of the press release, or both, as being the mistake in question.

    But then that often happens when partial quotes are used. The words quoted take on the context of the paragraphs around them, and the previous paragraphs mention both.

    Whichever he is actually referring to (and there’s nothing particularly wrong with using it in either situation one feels), the fact that it can be labelled an error is merely an exercise in hindsighting, as the denialists were going to have to over-concentrate one particular piece anyway, this was just the one that was presented.

  15. #15 Dano

    Sallie is gonna be there, Jeff. You should go. Right-wing shills usually dress…hawt!

    Hans, after you are done overturning 100+ years of basic Arrhenian physics, will you let us know how well Heritage feeds the shills? Post the menu.



  16. #16 caerbannog

    Folks who are confused about the “hockey-stick” wars and who want to see how deniers “pull fast ones” should google up a PDF copy of the Wegman Report and have a look at figure 4.1. A major argument used against Mann et al is that Mann’s data-centering convention “mines” noisy data for “hockey stick” leading principal components. To make that case, M&M generated a big set of random noise time-series and computed principal components from it using Mann’s data-centering convention. And yes, in many cases,leading principal components computed from this sort of random noise do have that “hockey stick” shape. But there’s a *big* catch here, and someone with sharp eyes should have no trouble spotting it.

    To see what I mean, check out the Wegman Report Figure 4.1. Figure 4.1 shows Mann’s “hockey-stick” plotted right next to a “noise-only” hockey-stick. They look pretty similar, don’t they? Looks pretty bad for Mann, doesn’t it? But take a closer look at fig 4.1 — in particular, look at the Y-axis scales of the two “hockey-stick” plots. You’ll see something **very** fishy.

  17. #17 caerbannog

    Oops — meant to post the above over at Tim Lambert’s blog. (I’ll blame my goof on a combination of too many open browser windows and not enough coffee).

  18. #18 Eli Rabett

    Real men stir their coffee with Tim Horton’s hockey sticks.

  19. #19 hank

    The point is to blog not blag.

    OED, blag: 1. trans. To obtain or achieve by persuasive talk or plausible deception; to bluff, to dupe or deceive by bluffing; to scrounge, esp. by clever or deceitful talk. Freq. in to blag one’s way into (or out of): to talk one’s way into (or out of).

  20. #20 N. Joseph Potts

    I’m among those who took Al Gore’s graph to be Mann’s original. And this after having bought the BOOK just to be sure, and inspecting the thing in both its vertical and horizontal presentations (on adjacent pages).

    Silly me, I had supposed that Gore, like Michael Moore in the 9/11 Reader, would present at least SOURCES for his horror stories. No such thing. The book is the first I’ve bought since childhood that contains NEITHER an index nor a table of contents, much less a footnote.

    One just is NOT to inquire into what the former and future almost-president is on about.

  21. #21 Hank Roberts

    You mean the graph based on Lonnie Thompson’s ice core work, I assume? That’s the one held up in front of the cameras at the recent House Energy subcommittee hearing.

    The representative asking to have it displayed was sure it was taken from Mann’s work.
    The person holding the book was able to find the source in the text on that page and read it aloud.
    The representative then claimed that Gore was trying to confuse people by finding other sources for similar charts, he thought anything with that shape had to be based on Mann’s work.

    Would you have another look?

  22. #22 Hank Roberts

    You sure you looked at Gore’s book at not at the CEI guide to it?

  23. #23 Peter K. Anderson

    The present ~3 Million years of the current ‘Primary Trough’ Climate behaviour is NOT in any manner required to continue…

    [Cut – W]

  24. #24 N. Joseph Potts

    Hank, when WMC said it was Thompson’s chart, I inspected the surrounding TEXT and found . . . he’s RIGHT!

    I had limited my earlier search to “source” footnotes that actually are given (e.g., IPCC) for some of the other illustrations in the book. “Dr. Thompson’s thermometer” was the clue in the text.

    I just hadn’t taken a reference to a “thermometer” to be a reference to a thousand-year plot. But I’m not a scientist, so you have to cut me some (a LOT) of slack.

    I’m not a politician, either. 0 for 2, there.

    [I’m curious. Do you think there is anything to be learn from the fact that you and many other people can’t tell the charts apart? -W]

  25. #25 Peter K. Anderson

    It is that an ice core is NOT a ‘thermometer’ …

    [Cut -W]

  26. #26 N. Joseph Potts

    I make nothing of my inability to tell one hockey stick from another, but I’d love you to GIVE and tell us what YOU make of it. Keep in mind that I didn’t have them side-by-side, and that Gore’s presentations are always simplified, masking details (e.g., confidence intervals)such as I know very well are in Mann’s presentation.

    [I mean the obvious, and I’m sure that you can see it too, even if you don’t want to come out and say it: if the various reconstructions look identical, then technical criticisms of one particular reconstruction are probably not very important and the std.answer “but it doesn’t affect the result very much” are true -W]

    In simplifications such as Gore’s, distinctions blur extensively (and deliberately, for one purpose or another). Four details matched: (1) temperature versus time; (2) time 1000AD to 2000AD, more or less; (3) big uptick at the end (blade of the stick); (4) very small Medieval Warming Period, which Al helpfully pointed out for us.

    Now, DO tell us what you make of my having mistaken its source as Mann in the absence of a source notation in or by the picture. Mann’s picture certainly has gotten around, you can’t deny that.

    [BTW, you share the std mistake about 4 – all the reconstructions show pretty well the same MWP (see wikipedia, etc etc). Its the LIA they disagree about -W]

  27. #27 Eli Rabett

    Mr. Potts, it is very simple, you cannot find a proxy record that does not show a sharp jump in the last 100 years. Mann’s contribution is he realized that different kinds of proxys could be combined together to narrow uncertainty.

  28. #28 N. Joseph Potts

    Thanks, Rabett – clearly WMC’s view was, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.” Well, I literally figured it out for myself last night in bed, just as you said.

    Some of us Americans are a LITTLE slow on the upbeat, especially when the question isn’t as sharp as “What do you make of it that the Mann and Thompson plots are so similar?” Instead, WMC found ANOTHER opportunity to criticize the little knowledge I have, and am so desperately struggling to increase, with but the most grudging assistance of the priests.

    Well, don’t be threatened by my climatological aspirations, even granting that I’d be capable enough to threaten anybody. I only want to UNDERSTAND and EVALUATE what I’m being told, no more. But that’s quite a lot, I know you’ll agree, particularly for a hyperannuated beancounter.

    I see no controversy about temperatures having risen in the last 100 years. It’s what went on in the preceding 900 years that’s of greater interest to me, and unless I make another mistake (feel free to jump in, WMC), Thompson’s plot largely MATCHES Mann’s in this area, too. If so, and if Thompson’s proxy is independent of Mann’s batch, then it’s starting to look pretty convincing that things were cool for ~900 years, and now, man is cooking up a hell on earth for himself.

    OR SOMETHING is, and I haven’t yet noted any compelling alternatives. I’m certainly LOOKING for alternatives, not because I want to prove climatologists wrong, but because the plans in place to throttle AGW look terribly costly to me.

  29. #29 Hank Roberts

    I think you’ve got it. Look up Ruddiman (Google Scholar) for how soon people may have begun affecting climate with agriculture, even before fossil fuel.

    A good place to ask questions and ask for personal attention:

    One suggestion — limit use of irony and sarcasm, and use the caps key once per sentence plus proper nouns. Otherwise you’ll attract cranks not helpful people.

  30. #30 Hank Roberts

    And from the BBC:

    Blagging in the blogosphere
    Dr Richard Ladle

    Richard Ladle

    Blogs are revolutionising the way millions of people around the world keep in touch with environmental issues, but at what cost? Richard Ladle, in this week’s Green Room, says the growing popularity of web-based journals is making it harder to sort fact from fiction. …

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